Gathering wild foods (Walden 156)

We begin a new chapter, “House Warming.” In the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” as John Keats famously called it, Thoreau roamed the woods gathering wild food.

Chestnut. Wikimedia Commons

Chestnut. Wikimedia Commons

Wild grapes. Chestnuts from “boundless chestnut woods” that “now sleep their long sleep under the railroad” (Henry’s words). Ground nuts (also known as Indian beans; Apios Americana).

Apios Americana. Wikimedia Commons

Apios Americana. Wikimedia Commons

Autumn has long been a season of harvest, a time to gather all that you’ve toiled for in your fields. Though Henry had certainly worked his bean field in summer, now he enjoyed harvesting what he did not plant, and seems to take greater pleasure in it. Of the ground nut, he says that it “seemed like a faint promise of Nature to rear her own children and feed them simply here at some future period,” and speculated that “the tender and luxurious English grains will probably disappear before a myriad of foes,” and that then this neglected wild plant would thrive and again be a source of food. The ground nut belongs to this place. It is neglected, underrated, and grows without the encouragement of the human community. Henry likes that — identifies with it, perhaps.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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